Tank-tastic: Going Back to Basics
Tank-tastic is a dual-stick shooting game that’s one part Geometry
Wars, one part Combat for the Atari 2600, and one part insanity. Wait,
I already said Geometry Wars. The game sports a single-player campaign
and local (one-console) multiplayer that supports up to four human
players and additional computer players in four different game types.
The entire game is set on a tablet of graph paper with a ruler on the
right side that keeps track of score (if required). I found this to be
a novel idea, which combined with the cartoon-like tank sprites and
miniature tread marks, gives the game a certain charm that I’ve seldom
seen in games since the turn of the century.
The game is a twin-stick shooter, meaning you use one thumb-stick to
move and the other to fire your cannon. You have to try pretty hard to
screw up such a basic formula. Luckily, Tank-tastic has not screwed it
up, but it has done something differently. You can only fire thrice
within a short time period. This takes some getting used to, but as a
conscious design decision, it’s a good one. Your shots fly around the
arena of paper until they hit the wall, and if you have a special
power-up, they’ll end up bouncing off the walls in another direction.
While the tanks are slow, players have a good chance to move out of
the way of the incoming shot.
The single-player mode is a little harsh, to be honest. Of the seven
levels (of what appears to be eleven) I’ve gotten through, most of the
time, it amounts to “don’t die.” The AI tanks in the single-player are
quick to get out of the way of your shots, but always hit with an
eerie precision that I don’t particularly enjoy. This was most evident
in one level where I was surrounded on all sides by several tanks and
tasked with not getting hit for thirty seconds. On the bright side,
there was a capture the flag event with only three AI tanks though,
which helped to break up the monotony.
Single-player aside, the multiplayer is the big star of the game. You
can play with up to four people, though they all have to be on the
same console. There are four additional slots for AI, which all eight
slots can be filled with, if you want to watch the computer duke it
out. Each slot can be changed to any team, so if you want 4 vs. 4 or 7
vs. 1, you got it.
You have the usual game-types that seem to appear in any competitive
game. Death-match lets the players (or teams) duke it out until one
team has reached the predetermined number of kills. Capture-the-flag
has players going after others’ while trying to defend their own. Last
tank standing is essentially deathmatch with a limit on lives. Pass
the bomb is essentially Hot Potato, though you have to shoot someone
to give them the bomb; those without the bomb are not able to shoot.
Too many times, I’ve put off writing this review because I want to
play “just one more round” with my friends. The simplicity of the game
combined with the multiplayer, I think, makes this an excellent party
game. It does take a few minutes to get used to the way the tank moves
and how you shoot, but once you’ve got it down, it’s very easy to come
back to. The inclusion of power-ups that let you shots split into
three or bounce off walls, or that give you shields or make you small
or faster give the multiplayer a wonderfully chaotic feel that seems
to leave winning in the hands of chance.
There’s one problem, I see with the multiplayer aspect, which is the
inclusion of computer-controlled bots. I see why they’re there, and
I’m thankful for the option, but I couldn’t have the bots set to
anything but easy. They were just too darn good at getting out of the
way of my shots or shooting in a way makes it very hard to dodge.
In fact, I see good similarities between Tank-tastic and Super Smash
Bros. and other multiplayer games along the same vein.
After downloading this game, I played a good amount on a
standard-definition TV set. More recently, having acquired an HDTV,
I’ve been playing it in the high-definition goodness it deserves. The
standard-definition graphics are largely good, save for one small
problem. There’s a certain power-up (and game mode) that shrinks your
tank to approximately half its normal size. I had a bit of a problem
keeping track of my tank while the insanity of multiple other tanks
and shots fired raged on around me.
The sound of the game is great, but limited. Tank-tastic may be the
first indie game where the sound effects didn’t get on my nerves. The
game has only one music track for game play, and it does get to be a
little annoying after about the eighth time restarting a single-player
level (due to their shortness), but in longer multiplayer games, it’s
not bad at all. The track is quite well produced, and has a great loop
(meaning you don’t notice it looping), but it IS a little on the short
With all its little imperfections, Tank-tastic has a very solid game
mechanic and wonderful multiplayer. If you’re only looking for a
single-player game, I think you might want to look elsewhere.
Game Score: 7/10
Download a free trial of the game here.